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Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism 2011

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Ryan Haley, Billy Parrott, Erminio D'Onofrio, Karen VanWestering, Jennifer Craft, and Maira Liriano with the 2011 Bernstein Award finalistsRyan Haley, Billy Parrott, Erminio D'Onofrio, Karen VanWestering, Jennifer Craft, and Maira Liriano with the 2011 Bernstein Award finalistsThe Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism was established in 1987, through a gift from Joseph Frank Bernstein to the New York Public Library, in honor of journalist Helen Bernstein (now Helen Bernstein Fealy). The gift was in two parts and the idea was to focus on Helen’s love and appreciation of the crucial role that journalism and newspapers play in our society by establishing the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism and endowing the position Helen Bernstein Librarian for Periodicals & Journals (my job!).  Helen continues to be a working journalist today writing for the Palm Beach Daily News where she lives. 

 

The award cycle begins in September when publishers submit nominations—this year we had over 75 books nominated. The Library’s internal review committee is up next.  We met monthly, from October to early February, reading and discussing the books... eventually narrowing the field to the final five titles.  (I took this photo last week as we wrapped it up). The finalists now go to an outside distinguished selection committee of professional journalists including Chair Jim Hoge, and previous Bernstein Award winners David Finkel (2010) and Charlie Savage (2008).  The winner will be announced June 7th, 2011.

The Bernstein Award is very special to me for two reasons.  First—I have the opportunity to read books that invaribly highlight the many critical current and global issues that shape our world and I learn a tremendous amount. All the books are written by working journalists, many of of whom risk their lives to gather information for the stories they tell and who inspire us all. Second—By highlighting in depth, investigative reporting and journalism, the Library plays an important role in safeguarding the First Amendment and drawing attention to significant world events.  This opportunity can raise public awareness about issues that may not be widely known or may be controversial.

The Library announced the finalists last Friday.  Subjects range from: the 2008 cyclone in Burma and the government’s response (or lack of)—written under a pseudonym to protect the identity of the journalist who spends a good deal of time reporting in Burma; an exhaustively researched book about Monsanto (jawdropping, frightening) published by an independent press, and a chronicle of the rise of America’s surveillance over the last 25 years (chilling). Stay tuned for more on the five books and their authors.

2011 Bernstein Award finalists:

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